|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Piracy Cannot Be Solved Only at Sea or in Isolation, Secretary-General Tells
General Assembly Meeting, Underlining Need to Change Strategy
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the General Assembly informal meeting on piracy, in New York today, 14 May:
Piracy may be the first international crime. Efforts to fight it created the first precedents of universal jurisdiction.
Today, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is the legal foundation of our efforts. Though it may seem like something out of the past, piracy is very much with us. In some parts of the world, it is resurgent.
The international community has reacted quickly and effectively to the piracy crisis off the Horn of Africa. It has deployed naval patrols. It has established a Contact Group and a Trust Fund. And there have been concerted efforts to increase the criminal justice response, particularly in Kenya and the Seychelles.
Yet the attacks continue — indeed, they are increasing in number. According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the global figure for 2009 was 406 — an increase of 100 over 2008. Last year, eight crew members were killed and 59 were injured or assaulted. Some 746 crew members were taken hostage or kidnapped, while 56 ships were hijacked.
By far the largest concentration of attacks has been off the coast of East Africa, where reported incidents increased seven-fold during the four-year period to 2009. Just two days ago, a Greek-owned ship with 2 people on board was seized off the coast of Yemen.
International naval patrols off the Somali coast have led pirates to increase their activities further into the Indian Ocean. Piracy is having a serious effect on tourism and fishing in the region. It is affecting the quality of life for Somalis, causing runaway inflation of food prices and problems for aid deliveries and supplies to the African Union Mission there.
There has also been an increase in attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, and in other regions. This has seriously affected seafarers and disrupted navigation. The figures are alarming. We need to assess what is working and what needs to be improved. That is the purpose of today’s meeting.
I would like to make four observations. First, international cooperation is essential. According to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, States are required to “cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy”.
The Security Council, for its part, has adopted six resolutions on the matter. These provided a framework for enhanced cooperation and help to Somalia, which lacks the capacity to patrol its waters and to address piracy and armed robbery off the coast. I also welcome the General Assembly’s long-standing engagement on this issue.
Second, piracy cannot be solved only at sea. Despite the commendable efforts of the many navies patrolling the coasts of Eastern Africa, there is simply too much water to patrol, and an almost endless supply of pirates. The problem needs to be solved on land, including in Somalia.
This issue was debated recently in the Security Council, and there is no doubt that a change in strategy is needed. Next week’s conference on Somalia in Istanbul, Turkey, will aim to kick-start a new international push for solutions to the security and stability crisis there. Stability on land would, undoubtedly, improve the situation at sea.
Third, piracy suspects should be brought to justice — not simply let go, or left to die. I commend the work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in helping Eastern African countries strengthen their criminal justice systems to prosecute piracy cases. I urge Member States, in addition to Kenya and the Seychelles, to take on their fair share of this burden.
I am encouraged by the signature by 14 States of the Djibouti Code of Conduct for the repression of piracy and armed robbery. In accordance with Security Council resolution 1918 (2010), I will be preparing a report in the next three months on options to further the aim of prosecuting and imprisoning the pirates.
And fourth, we need to look at piracy in the wider context of security at sea. There are many issues involved, including container security, human trafficking, smuggling, organized crime and money laundering. Piracy cannot be addressed without taking on these other crimes.
I pay tribute to the organizations that have been working so hard to tackle piracy, including the European Union, NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization], INTERPOL [International Criminal Police Organization], AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia], IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority for Development], the African Union and the League of Arab States. United Nations bodies and agencies have also been closely involved, particularly the International Maritime Organization. Thanks to these efforts, the success rate of attacks has decreased from 1 in 3, to 1 in 10.
I also congratulate the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, and the regional authorities of Somaliland and Puntland, for establishing a technical cooperation mechanism on counter-piracy. We must build on this in our efforts to boost Somalia-based solutions. I urge Member States to support this mechanism and to consider providing support to the rebuilding of Somalia’s coastguard.
I also call on Member States to give their generous support to the Trust Fund Supporting Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, and to the IMO Trust Fund for the Djibouti Code of Conduct.
Finally, I thank the General Assembly for convening today’s meeting. I wish you every success in your deliberations.
* *** *For information media • not an official record